Nurse be Nimble, Nurse be Quick

Nurse be Nimble, Nurse be Quick

The notion of pivoting in your nursing career isn’t a new one, and that readiness to pivot can emerge from having a nimble mindset and a willingness to read the tea leaves of your career. Nurse, are you nimble?

Being nimble in your career means you’re willing to think beyond what’s right in front of you. It also means preparing and paving the groundwork for something you want – and if you don’t know what you want, you’re at least asking the right questions.

Many nurses settle into an area of nursing, rest on their laurels, and think less of the future than they should. These nurses don’t necessarily think a great deal about what they may want in five or ten years; thus, when they’re suddenly feeling unhappy and itchy for change, there’s much more work to be done due to the years they’ve spent avoiding any forward movement or thought for the future.

Listen to the voices that you hear. Pay attention to the ever-evolving zeitgeist of your industry. Know what other people think, and if you work in an evidence-based profession, follow the evidence when it pertains to you and your area of expertise.

The Consequences of Non-Action

In Buddhism, the concept of non-action is an important one. You know the adage, “Don’t just sit there, do something?” In certain circumstances, it’s sometimes better to turn that around and say, “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” However, when it comes to your career and its ongoing trajectory, I prefer action, even if that action is listening, thinking, and asking salient questions.

Let’s say you’re a nurse like me who worked in home health for the first decade of your career. You’ve never worked in the hospital, and while you love home health, you’ve been feeling called to finally take the plunge and enter the world of acute care. This may be a tough row since you’ve been in outpatient nursing for your entire career, but there’s no saying it’s impossible.

During these past ten years, when you’ve been focusing exclusively on home health, you haven’t done any networking, your resume is a mess, and you have few contacts beyond your small universe of home care colleagues. All along, you’ve never considered that any of the hospital staff you’ve met could be helpful to your career, so you haven’t connected with anyone on LinkedIn, built relationships, or otherwise laid the groundwork for the future.

In your mind, you’d like to jump right into the ICU, but common sense says that without any hospital experience since nursing school, you’re going to have to pay some dues, prove your mettle, and begin with a position in med-surg, step-down, or a sub-acute floor. Sure, you’d love to land an ICU position, but you don’t have the nursing skills or the connections to get you there. Your road will be challenging, but it’s not impossible – it’ll just take time and diligent action.

Reading the Inner Landscape

Being nimble of mind means being open to possibility. It also means that, in terms of your career, you’re steeped in curiosity and expansiveness rather than wearing blinders.

As a nurse who is nimble of mind and quick to grasp the opportunity, you read your immediate surroundings, the healthcare landscape around you, and the landscape within your heart and mind.

If there’s an inkling in your head or heart that what you’re doing now won’t hold water for you in a few years, now is the time to take inspired action in a new direction. That inspired action can simply be chatting with a nurse or manager who you know and trust, reaching out to a career coach for inspiration or ideas, or seeking informational interviews with professionals who are holders of information that may be helpful to you.

If you maintain awareness of how you feel about your career and work life, you’re more likely to take preemptive action that will incite change rather than being reactive when the going gets tough.

Remain Awake and Aware

We can all get sleepy and lazy at specific points in our lives. We feel comfortable, settle into the status quo, and conveniently forget or ignore that we may want something more down the road.

You must remain awake and aware of the possibility, understanding that every colleague you meet could be a source of brilliant information that will wake you up to something new. If you’re feeling complacent in your career, there’s no time like the present to do something about it and take a forward step.

As professionals, there’s always the micro and the macro. The micro is the minutiae of the day-to-day, the details of our lives and work. Meanwhile, the macro is the bigger picture, the bird’s eye view, and this is where we need to keep at least a little attention. Getting caught up in the web of details is easy, but those details can close your eyes to the broader career horizon.

Being nimble and quick doesn’t necessarily mean turning on a dime or being blown in some new direction with every wind that comes your way. Being nimble and quick means that you’re listening, willing to change, and quick to perceive that change may be in the air.

Is your workplace unstable? Do you need to be happier in your role? Do you feel limited or stuck? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do as a nurse? Is your current specialty area drying up and being supplanted by new technologies or skills?

I’m glad these questions make you uncomfortable because a bit of discomfort will galvanize you toward change if change is what is called for.

Nurse be nimble, nurse be quick. Nurse, consider your future, and keep your eyes wide open.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

Nursing Career Change and the Soul

When a nurse needs a career change, the reasons can be myriad and multifaceted. However, when we only reach for the money or career “advancement,” we may miss a golden opportunity for a different kind of personal and professional blossoming to take place.

We nurses change the course of our careers based on many factors, one of which may be We, nurses, change the course of our careers based on many factors, one of which may be money or advancement. This is all well and good, but based on my beliefs about the soul work of evolving as a nurse and a human being, money and career development are only parts of a much more intricate puzzle.

The soul work of nursing is that which lies deep within you — it’s the desire to serve, to give back, to contribute, to tend to others. Sometimes that soul work trumps salary and recognition. It just does. And sometimes that just has to be okay for a time.

What Calls You? 

Sometimes, a move from one form of nursing to another may feel like a lateral move rather than a vertical one, but there are times when lateral moves make sense due to a calling that runs deeper than the call of your bank account.

It’s often said that nursing is more of a “calling” than a profession, and this may very well be true for many of us. And what “calls” us from one form of nursing to another may be the work we need to do on a deeper soul level, the level at which we fulfill our larger life’s mission.

You may have been working with adults for years but feel that spending time with children is now essential for your personal development. You don’t understand it and want to question it, but the magnetic pull toward this new aspect of your life as a nurse has more power than you realize and is simply undeniable. And if you honor that magnetism, you never know what gifts may lay in store for you down that as-yet-unknown path.

Or maybe you’re not feeling “right” anymore in your current position. You don’t necessarily feel burned out, but it doesn’t feel like it used to. Then, suddenly, a new position makes itself known, but you realize that it will amount to a cut in pay. Do you honor your desire and take the pay cut in anticipation of the gold that may be waiting within this new opportunity? Or do you turn your back simply because of the money?

Your life circumstances may allow you to absorb the financial hit and explore this new career option. But it’s worth exploring how you feel in your gut and heart and considering your options.

Multiple Bottom Lines for a Career Change

Of course, if you have a family, children, or other dependents, your financial bottom line must sometimes take precedence over your desires. However, we can also flip that statement around and see that there are many bottom lines: spiritual, physical, psychic, financial, mental, and emotional.

A few more dollars per hour may make a difference for you and your family, which may be true on a certain level. But what about your spiritual health and mental health? What “tax” will you pay for that slight pay increase? What will the toll be, and will you be able to pay it day after day? Look at a career change from a multifaceted perspective, and the decision may become more clear.

Weighing Your Options, Caring For Your Soul

Reality — especially financial reality — can feel weighty when making career decisions. And let’s acknowledge that there are other realities as well, and sometimes those realities (like the psychoemotional or spiritual) also need to be honored, weighed, and figured into the equation. We must also remember that when we think there are only two paths to choose, there are more often than not more choices than we immediately perceive.

So, if a career change is in your sights, examine it closely, weigh it all, do the math, and allow your heart, gut, and mind to guide you. Allowing only one of those important aspects of yourself to steer the entire ship without heeding the wisdom of the others may not yield the results you deserve.

Career change is exciting and sometimes scary. Use all of your faculties to plot a path, and make a choice that works for your soul, career, family, and who you truly want to be as a nurse.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.